Loss felt in the Natchez community

Published 1:26 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

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Natchez is still in shock from the unexpected loss felt in recent days, starting with the burning of Hope Farm — a historic landmark — and the death of its owner Ethel Banta, who meant a lot to residents and tourists in the community.

She represented Natchez hospitality at its finest and was a friend to anyone she met. The community will forever treasure her.

Next, we learned of long-time Natchez Adams School District teacher Christine Martin-Krize who died unexpectedly in her home after a brief illness. She is the fourth in the NASD family to be mourned this school year alone, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to her work and personal families.

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Most recently, we all felt a pang of sorrow from the loss of a public official.

From his seat at the table in the Natchez Council Chamber, Mayor Pro Tempore and Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard seemed to be a serious man, always taking on the responsibility of being the watchdog of public funds.

Anywhere else, he was a happy and cheerful father and grandfather with an appreciation for art, architecture and music.

When he wasn’t giving the city clerk a hard time, we recall fondly how he remarked that the bandstand on the Natchez bluff, often called the gazebo, needed to host a singer or musician every weekend with his guitar case open, catching a buck or two but also providing that cheerful music and atmosphere that would draw visitors to the bluff.

We remember Dillard sitting with Dan Gibson — before he was mayor — in his sitting room at Garden Song, with Diana Glaze and other members of “Friends of The Natchez Centre at Margaret Martin” discussing their vision for a performing arts and education center at the former school.

Those plans changed when the owners of Dunleith bought the property, but the gesture showed Dillard’s support for the magnificent historic building’s rehabilitation and his appreciation for the artistic community.

In his serious role as a board member, Dillard was often quiet until he needed to not be.

As a 14-year alderman, he was very knowledgeable about city business and was deeply concerned with making sure proper procedures were followed — something every one of us should appreciate.

When it came to managing the city’s finances and following Robert’s Rules, he was a stickler and we the public — which needs to hear all of the arguments made by the board and know where they stand on the issues — are grateful for it.

We will keep Natchez in our prayers as we recover from the heartache we all feel these past few days. Each of these individuals had something in common and that is a love for this community, a desire to educate and embrace its youth and explore its beauty.

We are forever grateful for their years of service and sacrifices to bring happiness to others around them. They are missed.